I’ve criticized Sarah Palin in the past, but haven’t had much to say about her since she left office and became a private citizen. However, she obviously continues to drive liberals berzerk. Today, Richard Cohen has an article entitled “Palin’s Red Menace” that seeks to compare Palin to Sen. Joe McCarthy, basing his argument on a Wikipedia definition of “McCarthyism.” But McCarthy was a U.S. Senator who was holding hearings stemming from his accusations, while Palin is just posting stuff on Facebook. She represents a threat to nobody, and if liberals ignored her, she wouldn’t receive much attention. But more than 9 months after the election, the left continues to be obsessed with proving Palin a stupid, dishonest, and very bad woman. And as long as they do that, it will trigger a counter-reaction by the right, and perpetuate her political celebrity status.
And by the way, I should remind Cohen that it wasn’t Palin, but Nancy Pelosi, who branded citizens who disagreed with her as “un-American.”
Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York said on CNBC that any bill that did not include a government-run plan could lose 100 votes in the House of Representatives.
“The president does seem like he’s moving away from the public plan and if he does, he’s not going to pass a bill,” Weiner, an advocate of a single-payer system, said, “because there are simply too many people in Washington who feel that the public plan was the only way that you effectively bring some downward pressure on prices and if he says, ‘Well, we’re not gonna have that,’ then I’m really not quite sure what we’re doing here.”
Asked if he would not vote for a bill that did not include a government plan, Weiner said, “Not only I, but I think there’s probably about 100 members of the House who believe for various reasons that you need to have something to bring down prices otherwise basically what you’re doing is you’re keeping the cost arc.” He added, “I think as it was, the public plan had been watered down so much, so if the President thinks he’s cutting a deal to get Senate votes, he’s probably losing House votes.”
Cato’s Michael Cannon has explained:
It makes no difference whether a new program adopts a “co-operative” model or any other. The government possesses so many tools for subsidizing its own program and increasing costs for private insurers–and has such a long history of subsidizing and protecting favored enterprises–that unfair advantages are inevitable.
Meanwhile, Robert Reich has attacked the idea from the left, arguing that co-ops “won’t have the scale or authority to do what a public option would do.”
Whichever argument you agree with (I’m with Cannon), the one thing that’s perfectly clear is that the co-op idea isn’t very viable as a compromise from a purely political perspective. Free market advocates see it as a government-run plan by another name, while liberals view it as a toothless cop out. The co-op idea is the result of a typical Washington dealmaking culture that tries to split the difference in any policy dispute, but it simply does not have a constituency outside of the Finance Committee of the U.S. Senate.
Earlier I wrote about the Obama administration’s possible backing off of the inclusion of a so-called “public option” in health care legislation. But what’s important to emphasize is that even without the creation of a new government plan, we could still be stuck with a government-run health care system. First off, at this point, we don’t know how this idea of a non-profit co-op would work — under some versions, it could easily become a de facto government plan. Even setting that aside, however, the reality is still troubling. The remaining parts of the proposals in Congress would leave us with a system in which government mandates that individuals buy insurance or pay a tax and that employers offer insurance or pay a tax. Then government would have to define what constitutes insurance. Medicaid would be expanded dramatically. The government would be providing subsidies to individuals to purchase insurance, but even if individuals don’t qualify for subsidies, at least under the House bill, they would be forced to purchase their insurance from a government-run exchange. And though the policies offered at this exchange would be nominally “private” they would be designed by government bureaucrats. In the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions bill, a new Medical Advisory Council would be tasked with defining “qualifying” coverage; in the House bill, all Americans are required to have coverage that is deemed “acceptable” by a Health Choices Commissioner. No doubt, the creation of a new government-run plan is the easiest way for the country to evolve into a pure single-payer system, but even without one, the proposals being considered would give us a system in which individuals would be forced to purchase government-designed insurance polices from a government store.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebilius caused an uproar on Sunday when she described the creation of a new government plan as “not the essential element” to health care legislation — even though liberals have long described it as the heart of President Obama’s health care proposal. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad said, “The fact of the matter is, there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option. There never have been. So to continue to chase that rabbit, I think, is just a wasted effort.” Conrad has proposed the idea of a non-profit co-op as a substitute for a fully government-run plan, but liberals have dismissed the idea as inadequate.
The White House’s decision to at least back off the idea of a so-called “public option” is not totally surprising, as it’s been pretty clear for awhile that the Obama administration wants to be able to sign some form of health care legislation this year rather than risk total defeat. But this also sets up the dynamic that I’ve been writing about for months — dropping the creation of a new government plan modeled after Medicare may help woo moderates, but it will also lose liberals. While Conrad says that legislation with a strong government-run plan did not have the votes to get through the Senate, it’s not clear that a bill could get through the House that did not include such a plan. Remember, 57 House Democrats signed a letter last month saying they could not support a bil that did not include a government plan that they viewed as strong enough.
Meanwhile, today, the front page of the website the Campaign for America’s Future, which has been pushing the idea, reads “No Surrender on the Public Option: Talk of compromise in the White House and among Democrats in Congress does not change this basic fact: There is no reform without a public health insurance plan. This week, we are refusing to back down.” A straw poll of liberal activists at the Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh this weekend found that 53 percent said they couldn’t support a bill that didn’t include a new government-run plan, compared with just 26 percent who said they could.
David Hogberg and Sean Higgins of Investor’s Business Daily report that at least 13 Blue Dog Democrats oppose the House health care bill in its current form and 4 support it, based on news reports and their own survey of members. Others were either undecided or non-responsive. With Alabama Rep. Arthur Davis, who is not a member of the Blue Dogs, also having said he opposes the legislation, Democrats need at least 15 of 52 Blue Dogs to support the bill to secure passage if Republicans remain unified in opposition.
Meanwhile, at a town hall meeting, Jack Murtha — not a Blue Dog member — made comments suggesting that at the minimum, he had reservations about the current bill and expected the timeline to slip further.
A dispute over the end of life provision in the House Democrats bill has caused a war of words between Senate collegues Arlen Specter and Chuck Grassley that has spilled over to Twitter.
It started earlier this week when Grassley told the audience at a town hall meeting, “we should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.”
Then this morning at the liberal Netroots Nation conference, Specter boasted that he could get Grassley to support Democratric legislation, Dave Weigel reported. “I’m close to Chuck Grassley; we came in at the same time,” Specter said. “You don’t need any help with Senator Snowe.” Then, in talking about Grassley’s statements about end of life counseling, Specter said, “He’s in The New York Times this morning and he’s wrong. I’ll call him today.”
That prompted shouts of “Call him now!”
“They’re saying ‘call him now,’” said moderator Ari Melber.
“Whoever said that, join me backstage and watch me dial.” Specter held his hand up, and wiped his mouth, smiling; the crowd ate it up.
Not only did Specter follow through on his promise (photo here), he wrote on Twitter, “Called Senator Grassley to tell him to stop speading myths about health care reform and imaginary ‘death panels.'”
A clearly bothered Grassley snapped back on Twitter, “Specter got it all wrong that I ever used words “death boards”. Even liberal press never accused me of that. So change ur last Tweet Arlen.”
No word back from Specter yet, but I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of it.
The timeline to pass health care legislation slipped not because of attacks by Republicans, but because of infighting among Democrats who have large enough majorities in both chambers of Congress to pass a bill without a single Republican vote. Bloomberg reports that Senate Democrats are also fighting among themselves about the national energy tax that was passed by the House:
The U.S. Senate should abandon efforts to pass legislation curbing greenhouse-gas emissions this year and concentrate on a narrower bill to require use of renewable energy, four Democratic lawmakers say.
“The problem of doing both of them together is that it becomes too big of a lift,” Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas said in an interview last week. “I see the cap-and-trade being a real problem.”
Meanwhile, Harry Reid has said, “I don’t think we are going to take to the Senate floor a bill stripped of climate provisions.”
David Brody has posted video of Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California admitting that health care legislation would cover abortion.
Here’s a transcript of the exchange, which kicks in around the 6:51 mark:
QUESTION: “[This is a ] health care plan that is covering abortion, which we know that over 90% of abortions are purely elective, not medically necessary. Why is this being covered when abortion is clearly not health care?”
REP. LOFGREN: “[This is a] basic benefit plan developed by, um, health professionals… I am sure Abortion will be covered as a benefit by one or more of the health care plans available to Americans, and I think it should be…I will say this, that we have made sure that the federal contribution will not pay for that procedure.”
Jim Antle explained earlier this week why, in practice, it would be impossible to prevent taxpayer funds from subsidizing abortions under Obamacare.